Movie Review: Jumper
By Matthew Huntley
February 28, 2008
If I had the ability to teleport, I think I'd do many of the same things as David Rice, the hero of Jumper. When he's a teenager, David discovers he has the ability to "jump" from one place to another, be it from the lake to the library, his apartment to a bank vault, or to a whole other country. Imagine all the far off places you could go and still return home the very same day, not to mention all the money you'd save on travel expenses.
Doug Liman's new movie mildly explores the grander possibilities of teleportation but mostly confines itself to a traditional battle between two opposing groups - 1) Jumpers and 2) those who believe the ability to jump is blasphemous and must destroy those who can. This all makes for a slick, entertaining action flick, but with a concept as neat as teleportation, why limit the story to a conventional, superhero-based battle between good and evil? It could have been so much more when you consider all the ramifications that go unexplored.
Even so, the movie is decent entertainment. As a teenager, David (Max Thieriot) is a social outcast, which always seems to be the case for anyone who goes on to develop superhuman abilities. For once, I'd like a story about someone with superpowers who's also the most popular person in school. Why not take someone who's not a social outcast and make them one, instead of just outcasting someone further? That's another movie, I suppose.
When David learns he can jump (he just has to visualize a mental image in his head), he runs away from home and his abusive father (Michael Rooker), but he also forfeits his friend Millie (AnnaSophia Robb). In New York City, he finds an apartment and starts robbing banks by jumping in and out of their vaults, though he's kind enough to leave notes that read, "I'll pay you back." After eight years of traveling, stealing and living the high life, David (Hayden Christensen) is finally tracked down by the bleach-haired Roland (Samuel L. Jackson), one of the leaders of a religious fanatic group called Paladins. They believe only God should have the ability to go anywhere on Earth.
David returns home to find Millie (Rachel Bilson) and invites her to Rome, where he also meets another Jumper named Griffin (Jamie Bell), who says, "Welcome to the war." Apparently, the battle between Jumpers and Paladins has been raging for centuries. It's just a shame we never get fully informed as to why the Paladins want the Jumpers dead so badly, other than their orthodox beliefs.
Jumper is quick, shiny and interesting...to a point. But the whole tone feels like the filmmakers were only prepping for a sequel, like this one was all set up and no payoff. It doesn't feel like a complete, standalone movie with its own story. It's merely the "Part I" in a franchise hoping to be something bigger, better and deeper with latter installments. If that's the case, then we're hopefully in for a real treat with Jumper 2. I'm not fully confident, though, since Liman and writers David S. Goyer (Batman Begins) and Jim Uhls (Fight Club) sort of gave up on what they could do with this movie, like exploring the characters and their situations more fully.
The movie is based on Steven Gould's well-received novel, which is unread by me, but I would hope it answers more questions than the screenplay does. For instance, I wanted to know about David's relationship with his runaway mother (Diane Lane), who left him at age five, as well as her relationship to David's father. When did the Paladins form as a group? Where does the name "Paladin" even originate from? Who was the first documented Jumper? Does a Jumper have mutated genes that allow him the ability to teleport? Maybe some of these questions are answered in the book, but the movie could have taken it upon itself to tell us more.
As for the actors, most of them fit into their roles nicely, including, surprisingly, Bilson, who delivers her dialogue in such a way that brings the whole idea down to earth. It's Hayden Christensen, I'm sorry to say, who feels grossly miscast. He hasn't developed much as an actor after the Star Wars prequels and is still just as wooden and flat with little fluctuation in his mood and demeanor. In the hands of a better actor (maybe Joseph Gordon-Levitt), I wonder how much more interesting and dynamic the main character could have been.
I enjoyed Jumper enough to marginally recommend it, and it does make me want to see a sequel, but that's mostly because I'm curious about the many questions it didn't answer. Movie franchises always have to begin somewhere - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Spider-Man, Batman Begins - but they also have to stand on their own in case a sequel isn't there to bring the story full circle. These days, it feels like sequels are planned even before the studio releases the originals. That seems to be the case with Jumper, which hurries to finish itself up so it can (hopefully) deliver the goods the next time around.